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Source: Newsday

Cuomo: State to spend $150M to treat, contain Bethpage plume

Construction of the well system aims to halt the southward progress of a plume that measures 3.7 miles long, 1.8 miles wide and 800 feet deep.


Posted: December 21, 2017
Originally Published: December 21, 2017

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday the state will spend $150 million to build a well system for treatment of a large groundwater plume in Bethpage and to stop it from traveling farther south.

The governor said the state will begin constructing the wells next year and try to recoup costs from the U.S. Navy and what now is Northrop Grumman — which operated on more than 600 acres in Bethpage from the 1930s to the mid-1990s to research, test and manufacture airplanes and space-exploration vehicles.

“Delay is an enemy, and time is of the essence,” Cuomo told state and local officials at Carlyle on the Green in Farmingdale. “And every day we lose, that plume moves. And that plume is now affecting more homes.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which has pressed for action, said, “Cleaning up a plume of this size takes massive political will and it will take money and technology. Today we got all three.”

The governor on Thursday gave the plume’s dimensions as 3.7 miles long, 1.8 miles wide and 800 feet deep. Tests show it contains 24 contaminants, including the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists as carcinogenic, and 1,4-dioxane, an emerging, unregulated contaminant.

The announcement capped a state study launched in February to investigate how to contain and clean up the groundwater contamination emanating from the former manufacturing sites. At that time, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the engineering analysis would involve water testing, fieldwork and computer modeling.

Cuomo said 14 wells will be constructed at the edge of the plume’s boundaries to prevent it from moving farther south. Additional wells, within the boundaries of the plume, will be built to treat the water, he said.

The Bethpage site, which was added to the state Superfund list in 1983, is subject to a number of cleanup plans to remove contaminated soil and treat the complex series of groundwater plumes. Contaminated groundwater first was discovered in the late 1940s and volatile organic chemicals were found in the mid-1970s.

Since the spring, elevated levels of radium have been found in monitoring wells beneath two Bethpage schools, and a document released by the state after Newsday filed a public records request revealed Northrop Grumman had handled radioactive materials at Bethpage.

State DEC officials have said they are investigating the source of the radium and that it could be naturally occurring. In the case of the schools, they said the drinking water was not affected and there was no threat to students, teachers or staff.

In late October, a group of residents who allege the Navy and state DEC have failed to adequately investigate the presence of radioactive materials in Bethpage put the agencies on notice they plan to sue and seek federal court intervention.

The group, named Long Island Pure Water Ltd., in September sent formal notices of intent to sue to the secretary of the Navy, the state DEC commissioner and others, saying the contamination is “causing an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment in Long Island’s sole source aquifer and the drinking water” supplies of Bethpage, South Farmingdale, Massapequa and other communities. The group had formed in August.